Book Review: The Armageddon Rag

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Book Review: The Armageddon Rag / Author: George R.R. Martin / Format: Hardcover, Kindle / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now

George R.R. Martin has shot to fame in recent years with his brilliant A Game of Thrones series of novels. However, no one can claim that Martin was a overnight success; before producing his award winning series, he wrote and worked on a great deal of projects. Now that he’s a household name, many of his previously out of print works have been re-published. So The Armageddon Rag is by George R.R. Martin, but technically isn’t by the guy who wrote A Game of Thrones, because this book was written way before that.

The Armageddon Rag tells the tale of ex-hippy Sandy Blair, who, suffering from writer’s block, snaps up the opportunity to investigate the highly ritualised murder of a prominent rock band manager. Along the way, the main character indulges in a hefty dose of nostalgia and soul searching, before the tale dips into a fast paced urban fantasy about ex-rockers on the road to self-destruction (and possibly darker things.)

Sadly, the story really does show its age; this is an eighties shout out to the innocence of the sixties. If it wasn’t for the reasonably solid mystery/supernatural tale that underpins this book, it would simply be yet another piece of baby-boomer whining about lost youth and growing maturity. In the year 2012, this does make you want to reach into the narrative and give the main characters a really good shake; it’s hard to have sympathy for these over-privileged children of the fifties in these recession hit days.

Despite all this, it’s a George R.R. Martin novel; he’s a skilled, tight, and imaginative storyteller, even when he’s being incredibly self-indulgent. It’s an interesting case study in how good the author has become, and even at his worst, he’s worth a read.  Those looking for the sharp wit and complex plotting of A Game of Thrones should wait for his next novel to come out. If you can’t wait that long for your fix, try his just as old (but much better) novel Fevre Dream instead.

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